Hard work, determination, enjoyment of what you are doing and having a positive attitude are the vital keys for achieving any business goals.
Bristol Sweet Mart owner Rashid Majothi won’t give away his secret family recipes, but he’s keen to help other local businesses achieve their goals. He’s celebrating more than 40 years as one of the best known shops in multicultural Easton, stocking frozen foods, dry goods, fruit and vegetables and a renowned delicatessen counter.
Mr Rashid explains: “One of the things we’ve done in our business is that we’re trying to support a lot of local businesses that are based within Bristol and neighbouring areas like the West country, to give them an opportunity to bring their goods to us.
We are happier to take the products from them so that they bring their brand’s awareness. We deal with a local bakery as well, two local bakeries: one is based for normal produce; wholemeal bread, things like organic bread, and we have another one which does special flat bread, Mediterranean style bread.”
He describes some barriers that local businesses face when they desire to start business. “You need so much money to do that and understandably there’s the health & safety aspect that I totally respect.”
He believes that to start up without anything is very difficult and thinks that “people give up sometimes because of that, but I think if you pursue, there is help out there, but it’s not easy to come by.”
People constantly ask the Sweet Mart owner for advice: “I’ve got this great idea; how can I make it take off?” He is always happy and willing to advise them based on his vast knowledge.
“I can only tell them the hands-on experience of what we’ve experienced and what my father and mother did in the early days. You know to start up something it’s very difficult but don’t give up, you know?”
Many years on, Majothi’s sons are now in charge of a flourishing family business, are keen to help other local businesses and are actively involved in the development of a multicultural environment for their community.
Rashid acknowledges the special challenges faced by local food businesses. “Although there are little projects and some sort of grants available out there, to qualify for them sometimes you can’t tick all the boxes, so it’s difficult.”
Mr Rashid said: “As you‘re starting up, obviously there’s the health & safety issues, the insurance issues, liability and things like that. But what I find, a lot of people where they have succeeded is to start up in a small way. We started as a market stall.”
Now the business has vastly expanded, stocking 9000 different food and drink products, many unavailable in supermarkets, and also offering online and wholesale purchases.
His three- part Golden Rule for those trying to establish a reputation for their product is simple: always try harder, start from scratch and make little things with a positive attitude. That way, he says, people will talk about your ‘special dish’ and soon you’ll be getting fresh customers, and as you get to know them you’ll get to know what they like.
On becoming a brand, Mr Rashid says: “We don’t say it, people tell us we have a brand. People have faith in our products and we will never sell anything knowingly wrong”.
Rashid Majothi, Bristol Sweet Mart owner
And these customers seem to agree:
Mr. Khanam, a faithful Asian customer, who shops in Sweet Mart and has lived in Easton for many years detailed: “They are very good at providing all sorts of food, including food seasonings…. you’re here in England, but it feels like you are at home. I often see different generations working here. As well, the owner has offered jobs to other cultures.”
A British customer, Melissa, has been shopping at Bristol Sweet Mart for years, and said: “I think it has been central to this community developing. As far as I know, it has been here quite a while and the community developed around it. That is one of the big roles in this area: having the shop.”
Becky Claudia, who has been a customer at Sweet Mart for about 3 to 4 years, and lives locally, added that: “They have got a fantastic variety of foods from different cultures and generally if there are any unusual dishes you can’t find anywhere else you can always go to sweet Mart shop. Everyone is helpful… they are also involved in lots of community projects for example Eid celebration and street party”.
Concerning cutting down on waste and being environmentally friendly, the owner stated that when dealing with food, for instance in their delicatessen they have a 48-hour turn-around period-48 hours that foods may be kept for. And we make some frozen foods as well for take away and convenience, but also we do slow food like: “our curry takes 3 hours to cook and if you go to an Indian restaurant in 10 minutes you get your meal ready. You can’t cook a meal in 10 minutes.”
Lastly, Mr Rashid stresses the importance of “having a family with you, the backing that is your strength, and having a good team, which we have, people who work for us as well. It’s having the right sort of people and having them with you on board. Team work is very important, just hard work and loyal customers are important too. Don’t give up.”